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eNeuro. 2019 Jun 5;6(3). pii: ENEURO.0176-19.2019. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0176-19.2019. Print 2019 May/Jun.

Pubertal Testosterone Programs Adult Behavioral Adaptations to Sexual Experience through Infralimbic Cortex ΔFosB.

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Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824
Department of Psychological Science, Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint Peter, MN 56082.
Neuroscience Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.
Department of Physiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.
Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.


Acquisition of social proficiency entails behavioral adaptations to social experience, including both behavioral flexibility and inhibition of behaviors inappropriate in specific social contexts. Here, we investigated the contributions of testosterone and ΔFosB, a transcription factor linked to experience-dependent neural plasticity, to the adolescent maturation of social proficiency in male-female social interactions. To determine whether pubertal testosterone organizes circuits underlying social proficiency, we first compared behavioral adaptations to sexual experience in male Syrian hamsters that were deprived of testosterone during puberty (prepubertal castration; NoT@P) to those of males deprived of testosterone for an equivalent period of time in adulthood (postpubertal castration; T@P). All males were given testosterone replacement in adulthood for two weeks before sexual behavior testing, where males were allowed to interact with a receptive female once per week for five consecutive weeks. T@P males showed the expected decrease in ectopic (mis-directed) mounts with sexual experience, whereas NoT@P males did not. In addition, sexual experience induced FosB gene products expression in the infralimbic cortex (IL) in T@P, but not NoT@P, males. Overexpression of ΔFosB via an adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector in the IL of NoT@P males prior to sexual behavior testing was sufficient to produce a behavioral phenotype similar to that of experienced T@P males. Finally, overexpression of ΔFosB in IL increased the density of immature spines on IL dendrites. Our findings provide evidence that social proficiency acquired through sexual experience is organized by pubertal testosterone through the regulation of ΔFosB in the IL, possibly through increasing synaptic lability.


ectopic mounts; medial prefrontal cortex; puberty; social proficiency; testosterone; ΔFosB

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